Car insurance companies spend millions of dollars a year on advertising. The idea is to make the general public believe they’re a neighbor who will always be there to help. The reality is that if they were your neighbor you’d probably want to move!
Over the years these companies continue to develop tricks and tactics to maximize one thing: profit. Every adjuster is trained in these company policies and procedures. While each of the following tactics (see here for Part II and Part III) is different, they’re all designed with the profit goal in mind. Remember insurance companies are in the business of making money, not good neighbors.
Tactic #1: Delay
“Delay, deny, defend.” That is the saying that’s in the policy manuals and procedure books. The longer insurance companies can hold onto their money, the better. Delaying resolution of a car accident claim helps accomplish two things: 1) it allows them to collect interest on their money they should be paying you; and 2) during this time they can use additional tricks to deny or defend your claim. This could result in them paying you less than the fair value or nothing at all.
What are ways the insurance company will delay to hurt my claim?
1. Run You up to the Statute of Limitations Date
In California, the time you have to file a lawsuit for a car accident injury claim is two years from the date of the accident. This is called the statute of limitations. If your lawsuit isn’t brought within this time, you waive your right to the claim.
Letters go out to accident victims telling them they have two years to file their claim. This misleads people into thinking they have plenty of time to take care of it. Unfortunately, the most critical part of an accident claim is the 30 days after it, especially seeking medical attention right away.
By dragging things along and pushing it closer and closer to the statute of limitations, insurance companies know the victim will either accept much less to get it over with or it will be difficult to find an attorney.
Many attorneys won’t take cases that are close to the statute of limitations date because it doesn’t give them enough time to do their own investigation to make sure there’s a proper claim.
2. Failing to Return Phone Calls
Many people are surprised when the insurance adjuster reaches out to them within 24 hours. It gives a presentation that the adjuster is on your side and ready to work with you. But then you don’t hear from them. Or can’t reach them. Or you can’t track your adjuster directly. This is all part of the design to grind down accident victims and their patience.
3. Requesting More Information
Insurance companies will regularly request additional information. This is especially true when an injury victim isn’t represented by a car accident lawyer. Adjusters know that it’s very likely the unrepresented party isn’t aware of their rights in these situations.
One of the main requests adjusters make is for a “release of medical records.” This sounds reasonable because you were injured. But this is used to find ways to deny or defend your claim. Medical records authorizations can be limited in both time and relation to your accident. What insurance companies do is seek a request to look at all of your medical records. The request allows them to find potentially unrelated injuries or pre-existing conditions to use as a defense to your claim.
While insurance companies use pre-existing conditions as a defense, if approached properly these could result in more damages. In California and many other states, the “eggshall plaintiff doctrine” allows an injury victim to recover any damage that aggravated or exacerbated the pre-existing condition.
For example, let’s say you had migraines 1-2x a week pre-accident and then every day after the accident. You would be entitled to the aggravation above and beyond your pre-existing condition. Meaning you can’t recover for the 1-2 migraines because those existed already. But you can recover for the additional 5-6 migraines and the pain associated with it.
If you’re claiming lost wages, then adjusters may ask for paystubs, W2s, a doctor’s note justifying your absence, or a note from your employer.
But in the end the purpose of the delay is simply for them to hold on to their money. Whether it’s collecting interest, devaluing your claim, or denying or defending it to pay you nothing.
My name is Daniel Hanecak and I am a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer. I know from personal experience how stressful and time consuming a car accident can be. When you call Hanecak Law Inc., you will speak with me directly. It is my aim to provide you with free and friendly advice. Call me today at (858) 206-4326 for a free case evaluation.
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Part II: The Recorded Statement
Part III: False Sense of Security